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How Much TV Can Kids Watch?

An honest look at kids and TV from Frederick J. Zimmerman, Ph.D., author and UCLA professor of public health.
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Some experts have called screen-time for children "The greatest unacknowledged health scandal of our time." But are the Wonder Pets really so bad? An honest look at tots and TV:

The official word: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends zero screen time for kids under 2, including TV and video games. "It’s clear that children younger than 2 are learning nothing from television," says Frederick J. Zimmerman, Ph.D., UCLA professor of public health and author of The Elephant in the Living Room. "There is some suggestive research that associates early television viewing with subsequent problems of attention control, sleep problems, and slower development of reading and math." Zimmerman’s own research has found that kids who don’t watch language-development DVDs are actually more likely to pick up new words than those who do.

The reality: On average, kids ages 6 months to 3 years watch an hour of TV daily. "A minimal amount of television—a half-hour a day—will probably not cause any long-term harm," acknowledges Zimmerman. What’s more, "If a short amount of TV gives the parent a real break so that they then return to parenting with renewed energy and enthusiasm, that can be good thing." Karyn Ravin, a mom of two in Quogue, New York, lets her 2-year-old catch a half hour of his favorite show—Yo Gabba Gabba, Backyardigans, Animal Atlas—while she puts her 5-month-old to bed. As she says, "I know he’ll be glued and not get into anything he isn’t supposed to!"

What’s better than TV: Playing, and lots of it. "I’m a big fan of putting pans, wooden spoons, and plastic containers on the floor for children to explore," says Zimmerman. "Open-ended play sparks their imagination." And, of course, it’s fun!

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  • Rated 0 out of 5 by 22reviewers.
    Rated 0 out of 5 by My family is not big on TV in general. There are much better, more enriching things we can do as a family than plop down in front of the TV. My husband and I might indulge in a movie after the kids are in bed, or I might occasionally watch a baby genius with my little one to sing songs with him... but that's about it. I understand that an extra few minutes to do dishes is nice, but don't you think your child might benefit more from one-on-one play time? Save the dishes for nap time or after bedtime. September 24, 2014
    Rated 0 out of 5 by honestly i dont agree with the tv deal seariously my son learns more from watching his cartoons than anything else but its not like i let him just watch anything too i choose his dvds and channels he watches January 23, 2013
    Rated 0 out of 5 by Honestly, my daughter watches a whole lot more movies than she should (yes movies we don't bother with tv). But she is still advanced and loves to dance and clap and make noise with pots and spatulas. It's not like she's paying attention to the movies the WHOLE time but they give her something to pay attention sheehan her toys bore her for those split second moments. AND I manage to clean a couple dishes. November 17, 2012
    Rated 0 out of 5 by My little girl watches interactive shows i have made a point to site and play the actives on the shows with her. she likes to play with her toys well watching but looks up when the musice comes on dancing and laghing. but if i play the readio not so much. but doing the actives with her she has learnd to flow deritions. September 25, 2012
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